Dave vs. Mmm-Bop

NPR recently released its Songs of the Summer, which invokes memories of summers past by conjuring up (or dredging up, in some cases) songs you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing. Songs like “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley (2006), or “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira (also 2006). Or the bane of 1991, the unforgettable “Summertime” by the equally unforgettable DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.

In 1997, one of the songs of the summer was “MMMBop” by boy-band Hanson. And mercifully, I avoided hearing it. I remember the summer of 1997. While everyone else was listening to that, I was listening to aging bands like The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen, and that habit saved me. I managed to make it until 2004 without hearing that boy-band staple. It’s an achievement I’m proud of. Read more

I think I’m going to take a couple of days off again…

There’s an old Oasis lyric that I’ve hated for most of the past four years, mostly because of the memories it conjurs up, and now it really bugs me that it seems appropriate: “‘Cos I need more time just to make things right.”
The other fragments of the song that have survived my efforts to blot them out also seem fitting. “Don’t go away… Say that you’ll stay… Forever and a day…”

So, to ward off those perpetual rumors/fears/whatever that I’m hanging things up, I’ll just say this. I’ve “hung it up for good” before. The longest it ever lasted was 6 months, and that time was due to serious injury. Right around that time, someone insinuated that I should hang it up. We haven’t spoken since that time, and I’m better for it and I don’t give a rip about how he feels.

I fully expect this break to last through Saturday, then run out of gas sometime late Sunday afternoon.

I’ve overextended myself the past month or so. I’m tired. My Web server is running fabulously (it never hiccups, so long as Union Electric keeps the power flowing) but I haven’t come up with an effective way to upload content to it or add new features. I can live with that.

Meanwhile, my mail server’s a royal piece of… Nah. That doesn’t go far enough. My mail server is a Backstreet Boys Fan. It runs like a 16 MHz 386, and I can’t tell if it’s a configuration problem or if it’s just overwhelmed with spam. No matter. I’m overwhelmed with spam. On a good day I get 7. On a bad day I get 60+. I got 38 copies of the same spam message from some stupid online casino Tuesday. I absolutely have to get some spam filters in place, and some priority filters in place.

So the mail needs to be archived, a bare-essentials mail server built (Linux 2.4.8 kernel, sendmail, IMAP, fetchmail, procmail, and whatever else those five things force me to install so they can run, all built from the newest sources of course, using the most aggressive compiler settings known to man), then the archives restored, then spam filters put in place and run. Then I will have regained my ability to communicate and will be able to do something about my guilt over having week-old e-mail sitting around unanswered because it’s buried in worthless spam.

I need to tend to my servers. I need to rebuild a couple of workstations. I really ought to try to salvage the Baseball Mogul season that’s sitting on the corrupted hard drive in one of those workstations… (Though I hesitate to call anything that runs Microsoft Wintendo 2000 a “workstation…”)

Meanwhile, a couple of other projects need to get done, and I just realized today that I haven’t talked to Gatermann in more than a week and for all that group of friends knows, I’ve run off to the ends of the Earth only to find an Internet cafe, so I continued posting. I need to do something about that too.

I’ll be back. I have the same love/hate relationship with writing that most writers have. It’s like breathing after running a couple of miles on a brisk day in early March. I always hated breathing after that, because it hurt so badly. But no matter how much it hurt, I couldn’t stop.

Dinner and network troubleshooting

Dinner with Gatermann last night. It’s almost become a ritual: Slingers at the Courtesy Diner, then off to Ted Drewes’ for frozen custard. We didn’t waste any time at Courtesy because the jukebox was especially bad last night. Backstreet Boys or ‘NSync or 98 Degrees were playing when we got in, followed by another one of the boy bands (they all sound the same), followed by Brittney Spears, followed by that really stupid “It Wasn’t Me” song–I’ve forgotten the name of the so-called artist, which is just as well. That was followed up by “All Star” by Smashmouth. Now, when I’m in my car and Smashmouth comes on the radio, I change the station, because that song was really overplayed when it came out, and it never was all that good to begin with. It’s really sad when that band is the best thing you hear all night when you go somewhere. I said something to Gatermann about buying a place like that, then putting nothing but goth on the jukebox. Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division, Bauhaus, The Cult, The Cure, The Mission… What else do you need? We could call the place “Death’s Diner” or something. Since diner fare lowers your life expectancy anyway, why not, right?
But back to really overplayed songs… “All Star” was followed with “Cowboy” by Kid Rock. “Well I’ll pack up my bags and then I’ll head out west,” rapped the trash-mouth white boy from the trailer park. I looked at Gatermann. “Whaddya say we head out west and get outta here?” He agreed.

Drewes’ wasn’t especially crowded. There wasn’t much room in the parking lot, but once the weather warms up you normally can’t find a parking spot at all and have to park in the neighborhood.

We went back over to Gatermann’s, planning to play some Railroad Tycoon, since neither of us have played in months, if not over a year. Since he doesn’t have two Windows boxes anymore, I brought my IBM ThinkPad. I configured the network (I use a 192-net with DHCP; Tom uses a 10-net without DHCP),
then I plugged in using the cable from his Linux box, and I got lights on my Xircom PCMCIA NIC, but Tom noticed there weren’t any lights on the hub. I checked my network statistics. It had sent out a bunch of packets but never received any. I tried pinging out and just got timeouts. I re-seated the cable on both sides, then I re-seated the NIC’s dongle. Nothing changed. I wondered if I had a bad port or a bad cable. So I switched ports, to no avail. I powered the hub down and back up, thinking maybe it was confused. Nothing. We didn’t have any extra cables, so I plugged the cable I was using back into his Linux box. The lights on the card lit right up, as did the ports on the hub. I was able to ping too.

At one point I even stopped the card, ejected it, and plugged it back in. That didn’t help either. Tom’s network just didn’t seem to like my Xircom card, though it works great on my LAN.

Then I asked Tom if his hub was a straight 100-megabit hub or a dual-speed 10/100 hub. He said it was straight 100-megabit. That was the problem. My Xircom is a 10-megabit card. I started off with a 10-megabit LAN, then later upgraded to a dual-speed 10/100 hub so I wouldn’t have to replace all my cards. Later I added a four-port switch in the form of a Linksys cable/DSL router.

All of Tom’s cards are dual 10/100 (with the exception of a Kingston PCI NE2000 clone, but that card sits in his Linux router and runs to his DSL modem), so we could have solved the problem with a crossover cable. We’d lose Internet connectivity but that’s not necessary for two-player Railroad Tycoon. Tom has a crossover cable… in Kansas City. I have a crossover cable… at church. Neither was doing us any good.

So we didn’t play any Railroad Tycoon. We went through Tom’s files, found a few old pictures of me, and scanned one of them. The picture on my site right now is me in southern Illinois in May or June 1998. Some day I might even put up a current photo… Tom’s thinking I need to put on a pair of black jeans and a Joy Division t-shirt, then we can go find someplace with a shadowy, industrial feel to it and snap some pictures. He thinks it’d go well with the atmosphere I’ve got here. I tend to agree.

More Like This: Personal Networking

An untrustworthy vendor

First things first. About a month ago I ordered an FIC AZ11 from GPS Computers. One of my readers recommended them because he found Duron motherboard/CPU combos for a Backstreet Boys song there. I agreed. The price was unbelievable.It took about three weeks, but I got my order.

Steve DeLassus found their service to be worse than the very worst Backstreet Boys song.

He ordered a motherboard a couple of days after I did. They charged his credit card on May 1. But Steve still hasn’t received the order. He never received the courtesy of a tracking number (neither did I) or even confirmation e-mail (neither did I). My order just showed up one day. After that, I was wary of doing business with them again, but I wanted to see how Steve’s experience went.

Steve had a couple of e-mail exchanges with Terry Holmes, GPS’ president. Holmes promised to expedite the order, so he should have received it on or around May 17. That didn’t happen. Since then, Steve’s repeated efforts to contact them via e-mail and telephone have failed.

Their initials are pretty appropriate. Their service reminds me of a gigantic pile of s–uh, never mind.

I’m not gonna call them crooks, so I’ll just let this suffice: Steve gets ripped off so you don’t have to.

And I notice Mwave.com has the same board for $72. That’s still a good price. They’re charging a bit more for the CPUs, but when you actually ship all of your orders and not just half of them, your margins are a bit lower, so I guess they have to charge more.

CD’s; Duron deal; Journal site; Cheap nic; DMA problem;

MAILBAG:
From: Steve Delassus
Subject: Cheap CDs. Too cheap?

Hey, I found a spindle of 100 16X 80-minute CDs at Best Buy for $25 after rebate. Seemed like a good deal, so I grabbed it. They’re imation CDs, which I thought had at least a decent reputation. Have you heard anything to the contrary?

Steve
~~~~~
I’ll take that over private label who-knows-what. I like Kodaks best, but Imations are certainly better than, oh, Infodisc… But what were you doing at Best Bait-n-Switch?
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “David Huff”
Subject: good Duron deal

Dave,

Here’s another good deal for those wanting to build an inexpensive PC:

AMD Duron 750 OEM – $38.00 http://www.gpscomputersvcs.com/amdprocessors.html

Not too shabby ๐Ÿ™‚

Regards,
Dave
~~~~~
Wow. Thanks much. A Duron for a song. A Backstreet Boys song.
~~~~~~~~~~
From:
Subject: A good journal site.

Dave,

I would like to suggest Blogger.com. I’ve used it since February and haven’t had a problem with it. You can setup your own templates or use one of theirs. You can use your existing FTP account or they can provide one at blogspot.com. I set my journal up and just copied their template information to use my existing page format. I have my journal online at http://mkelley.net/notes .

I also must say that we have the same tastes in music, with the Pixies and the Church and some of the others you’ve listed. I have a video that came out for the album after Starfish and it has all of the Church’s music videos from the early 80’s to their end in the 90’s. If I can find it’s name I’ll pass that along. It should be cheap at your local used video/music stop.

ever listen to the Smiths?

Thanks, Mike Kelley
~~~~~
I’ll look into Blogger, but I’d really prefer something Linux-based, preferably Open Source so I can make changes to it down the line if I need a feature, and something using a database backend so I can rapidly make changes. If I’m going to change, I want to make a change that’ll give me lots of versatility.

I’m familiar with The Smiths but never really got into them. As far as Manchester bands go, I pretty much stuck with Joy Division and to a lesser degree, New Order. I think it’s Morrissey I object to, because I really enjoyed Johnny Marr’s guitar work with Electronic and with The The. Morrissey’s veganism (or is he just a militant vegetarian?) and asexuality just weirds me out, I guess.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “Jeff Hurchalla”
Subject: cheap nic

Hi Dave, Don’t know if you’ve already caught this, but I got a linksys 10/100 nic at Best Buy for $5 after rebate ($10 regular) on Thrusday 4/26. I can’t say how long it’ll last, but at that kind of price I thought you and your readers might like to hear about it. The card is suppoosed to support 95/98/me/2000, possibly NT and macOS, and also has unsupported drivers for linux. On another note, I’m having the most horrendous time setting up networking in win98 imaginable. I used to work in Tcp/ip programming so of course it feels like it shouldnt be anywhere near this hard to do.. but that wasn’t using anything microsoft. Well enough complaining, as fun as it is ๐Ÿ™‚ Do you have any suggestions for a web page to look at that goes in depth? I want to connect win98 computer to another win98, I’m using a linksys card in one and an NDC card in the other. The one with the linksys also has a Dlink card connected to a cable modem. I’ve attempted to set up internet connection sharing on the computer with 2 cards(it is 98se), but right now I can’t get either computer to see the other one. They are in the same workgroup. The ICS computer appears to have assigned 192.168.0.1 to the linksys(home) tcp/ip adapter, and the other nic in that computer is connected to the cable modem and working fine. For the other computer, I’ve set windows to automatically assign an IP address. Well if you’ve got any quick suggestions or places for me to look, let me know – I wouldn’t want you to waste time on it – I can do that for both of us quite easily! Take care, Jeff
~~~~~
Easy solution. Don’t set it to obtain an IP address automatically. Give the other (non-ICS) PC an address in the 192.168.0.x range yourself, with subnet mask of 255.255.255.0 and gateway of 192.168.0.1, then open a command prompt and try to ping the other one. If that works, specify your DNS addresses, then try pinging yahoo.com. I’m betting both will work, as will file and printer sharing if you turn that on (but be sure to unbind the Microsoft client from your Dlink card).

Unless you’ve got a DHCP server somewhere on the network, Windows will assign it a goofy address (in the 64.x.x.x range if I remember right–it’s some range that makes absolutely no sense) and you won’t see anything.

As for the NIC, that’s a nice price but I really don’t like to use Linksys cards. The Netgear card selling at CompUSA for $10 this week is a better card. I can confirm that Linux readily recognizes the Linksys, but the failure rate is higher than I like to see. Thanks for the tip though.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “Al Hedstrom”
Subject: The Move

Dave –

I also want to move my stuff, but I’ll move it to a host and probably use something like Coffee Cup. One question: How are you moving all your archives? Page by page?

Al Hedstrom
~~~~~
Yep, I think that’s the way I’m going to have to do it. I’m looking into alternatives but right now I don’t see any. I’m going to set up a test server and play around with it. I haven’t downloaded my Manila site yet; it may be possible to extract the stuff. That’d be nice. If I can extract the text I can probably wrap the template around it and fake out Greymatter, but I haven’t really looked into it the way I should. Maybe next weekend.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: Mike Barkman
Subject: DMA problem

Hi Dave —

A small problem: I’m hurriedly converting my spare box for my son-in-law, as his second office machine has carked.

It has a Gigabyte GA5AA m/b with the ALi chipset and 100 MHz bus. The processor is AMD K6-II-350 and 64 MB of SDram. I’ve transferred his two drives over — Seagate medallists, one 6 GB and the other 8 GB. I cleaned off the c: partition and reinstalled Win98SE and his working software.

Problem: I enabled DMA for each drive and the CDRom; but it won’t stick — reboot and the checkmark has vanished.

Any ideas? I was transferring files over my network, and the speed was dead slow — that’s what tipped me off.

Cheers /Mike
~~~~~
Sounds like you don’t have the proper drivers for your ALi chipset. Download those from your Gigabyte’s site and install them, and chances are that’ll clear up the DMA issue.

A sysadmin’s take on bloatware

An administrator’s take on bloatware. When I finally got around to making my rounds over Sunday dinner, I found a link to a programmer’s take on bloatware  on Frank McPherson’s site.

I have to admit, Joel Spolsky does a pretty nice job of making bloatware sound like much of a problem.

Except for one thing: Mr. Spolsky lives in a developer’s world, where the job is to crank out code. I have to live in a world where people don’t care about software, they’ve just gotta get the pamphlets mailed, the questions answered, the books written, the meetings planned, and the money raised. In this world, software upgrades are a distraction and need to be unobtrusive.

Excel 5.0 and Word 6.0 were hogs in their day. Today they seem positively svelte. Their descendants have bloated to 10 times the size, and what have they added? I’m not qualified to talk about Excel. I use Excel to calculate the prices of computer components and project savings. I could do the same thing with the original DOS version of VisiCalc.

I believe I’m very qualified to talk about Word though. I wrote a 292-page book in Word 97, along with another 300 pages’ worth of manuscript you’ll never see (you can thank O’Reilly and Associates for that, but no, I’m not interested in talking about it), and numerous magazine and newspaper articles. So I’ve spent a lot of time in Word. And what does Word 2000 add that Word 6.0 didn’t have?

Lots of crashes, for one. A facility to download clipart more easily. And font menus that display the font names in the fonts themselves, so you can instantly see what a font looks like. Type-as-you-go spelling and grammar checking that you should turn off anyway.

Word 97 had a slightly smaller number of crashes, type-as-you-go checking and the clipart facility. All it lacked is the fancy font menu, but I had a freeware add-in for that.

That’s not worth a tenfold increase in disk space. It’s not worth the larger number of crashes. Frankly it’s not even worth the upgrade price. It’s a colossal waste of money, unless you absolutely must use the new file formats. I’d be a whole lot better off spending that money on more RAM or a faster hard drive, or banking it for my next motherboard/CPU upgrade.

But beyond that, there’s a hidden cost behind the cost of the software and the cost of the hardware it takes to run it (admittedly miniscule; Office 2000 runs just fine on a Celeron-533, and you can pick up a closeout motherboard and a Celeron-533 for a hundred bucks, while a 20-gig IDE hard drive costs $99).

I’m currently faced with the task of rolling this behemoth out to 1,000 PCs. It sucks. First of all, we’re looking at shoving about 600 gigabytes of data down an already-congested 10-megabit LAN to install this sorry excuse for crap. So much for doing that over lunch break. Second, assuming a 10-megabit LAN with no traffic using the no-questions-asked install (the one thing I like about Office 2000), you’re looking at half an hour to install it on a reasonably modern PC. Five hundred hours of my labor, at time and a half since it can’t happen during the normal workday, and I still have my regular duties to do anyway? Hang on while I do some quick math. Hey, I’m starting to like the sound of this now. That’d make a nice downpayment on a house. Or I could pay cash for a midrange car. Or I could dump it into a nice safe investment and have a great start on paying for college for my firstborn, 18 years after whenever s/he comes along. But something tells me my employer really isn’t going to like the sound of this.

But that’s not the only hidden expense. Installing Office 2000 with the same level of functionality my users are used to having with Office 97 will require about 500 megs’ worth of free space, preferably on drive C. But Microsoft, being a bunch of morons (or having absolutely no grip on reality, I’m not sure which), decided it’d be cool to install NT 4.0 on a FAT partition, then convert it to NTFS if you specified NTFS in the first place. Trust me, give a computer user two gigs on drive C and six months, and they’ll fill it to bursting. The vast majority of my users don’t have enough free space to install Office 97. Sure, they can clean up the mess. But that’ll take most of them at least an hour or so to do, and that’s time they could be spending doing real work. The value of an employee’s time is usually much more than their hourly salary, so we’ll just call that another 20 grand flushed down the toilet. Thanks bunches, Gates and Ballmer. Maybe this is part of the reason why that ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” has come down on you.

Want another hidden expense? I know you do. This has less to do with bloatware and more to do with poorly written installation routines, but when you take a PC with zero fragmentation, then install Office 2000, Diskeeper Light will report an unacceptable level of fragmentation when you’re done. And, admittedly, the systems do feel slower afterward. Fortunately, users can defragment their own systems. At half an hour per PC, assume another 10 grand gone. Make it five. A lot of users can do other things while they’re doing that, but a lot of them will sit there and watch it defrag.

Microsoft, may you live in exceedingly interesting times.

Sure, a corporate-wide rollout of Office 2000 eats up a measly $5,000 worth of disk space that would otherwise probably go to Backstreet Boys MP3s users shouldn’t be keeping on their computers anyway (yes, I’ve found Backstreet Boys MP3s on our network–honest!) and we’ve already paid for the software. But the hidden costs are obnoxious. And in St. Louis, where you can’t get good IT help for love or money because there’s such a shortage, if my colleagues and I decide we like having lives and don’t want the overtime, my employer is screwed. Maybe we can find some high school and college students to do this for $8 an hour, but that’ll be a tough sell to some people. Our security manager may have problems with us giving a handful of part-timers administrative rights to all the workstations on our LAN. As he should.

Don’t let anyone fool you. When you’re trying to manage a network of 1,000 users whose primary job function is something other than technology, disk space costs a lot more than $0.00071 per megabyte.

01/15/2001

Mailbag:

Misc things; The trade; Depression

Why am I still messing with 486s and low-end Pentiums? I found a reference to this on the Ars Technica message board. Let’s see. I’ve got a genuine IBM PC/AT case sitting under my futon doing nothing other than looking old. I’ve got a Media Vision Pro Audio Spectrum sound card with a SCSI port on it. I’ve got a couple of old SCSI CD-ROM drives. I’ve got an AGP video card I can put in it. I’ve got a network card I can put in it, of course. And I’ve got hard drives. Plus I’ve got systems with DIMMs in them that I put there because I’d rather put too much memory in a system than have it just sit in a drawer. So basically I can have a modern system for a song. A Backstreet Boys song.

I’ve got mail. Hopefully I’ll take care of it this evening.

The American Dream again. Friday’s R.I.P.: The American Dream got a far greater response than anything I’ve written since college other than Optimizing Windows itself, which had more than a year’s head start. I had some people write in saying I was right. Frank McPherson’s response echoed another common sentiment: the original dream may be dead, the problem is that this generation needs to find another. That’s certainly a valid point.

One letter asked if I really thought we need a depression. Now, mind you, I don’t want one, and I’m certainly not advocating sabotage of our economy. I think we’ll get our own depression anyway–the Great Depression came about because of heightened expectations that grew unrealistic. Had it not been for regulatory brakes on the system, I think we’d already have had one, because there’s a widespread Las Vegas mentality in investing these days. People aren’t content to double their money in seven years anymore. They want to do it in seven months. And while people can do that, it’s like Las Vegas: the odds are against you. So they take irresponsible risks. People who understand the math much better than I do tell me that if you save 10 percent of your income and just dump it in an index fund–a mutual fund that follows the stock market–and do that from the day of your first paycheck to the day of your last, you’ll retire a multimillionaire. No genius involved. And now that we have Roth IRAs, we can pay our taxes up front and reap the benefits tax-free.

I’m testing that theory. I forget what retirement age is supposed to be for my generation. Is it 70? Like those details matter. Come talk to me when I’m 70 and I’ll tell you how it worked out for me.

Let’s get back to that idea of finding another dream. Frank McPherson pointed to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream. That’s productive use of our discontent. I like that. It’s something we should be doing anyway, but often we have to have a certain degree of angst before we’ll consider doing the things we ought to do.

But will it give us fulfillment? Some. Is it better and more noble than materialism? You bet. Should we? You bet. But will it solve the problem?

No.

I’ve thought about it a lot myself. And yesterday one of the people I respect the most made an observation. God is popular. God’s making a comeback. He’s a star. There’s a wave of spirituality crashing through Hollywood and there’s even another one in Washington. The stars are finding God. Filmmakers are making movies about Him, or at least letting Him make cameos. Slimy politicians are talking about God. Heck, even some not-as-slimy politicians are. C.S. Lewis once observed that there are longings in our being that no travel, no education, no spouse can ever fulfill. He said it made sense that the existance of those longings suggests the existance of something that can and will one day fulfill them: God. So we’ve got some people turning in that direction now. This is good.

Or is it?

The God of pop culture isn’t it. The God of pop culture is God on your own terms. It’s a very American God. In America, cars from the factory aren’t good enough. We get special options. Sometimes that’s not good enough either, so we put the car in the garage and we hot-rod it. In America, we build our entertainment systems from discrete components, getting speakers tailored for our environment and other components to best take advantage of it all. Hey, even a lot of the mystique behind the computer is gone, and people are undertaking projects they never would have dreamed of. They visit hardware sites and talk in forums and stumble across sites like this one, looking for advice on the best motherboard, the best hard drive, the best video card, then they go build the computer of their dreams–or the closest thing their budget permits. In America, we get cars, entertainment, and computers–as well as other things–on our own terms.

No wonder there’s so much appeal to Universalism. Eastern religions are nice, because you can take what you like, leave what you don’t, and they aren’t exclusive. If I remember my world religions class correctly, the Buddha was a Hindu, and remained one until the day he died. And Christianity isn’t incompatible with them, at least on the surface. Self-help pioneer Jess Lair once said someone told him his book I Ain’t Much Baby, But I’m All I’ve Got had a lot of Zen Buddhism in it. Dr. Lair was a devout Catholic. How did Zen Buddhism end up in a book written by a Catholic who admitted in his own words that he never thought much about Zen Buddhism? There’s a lot of Zen Buddhism in the Bible, that’s how. Or is it there’s a lot of the Bible in Zen Buddhism?

If linguists can point world languages and say they can trace all of them back to a single language, it only makes sense that at one time there was a single world religion, from which all of them can be traced.

But I don’t subscribe to the idea of Universalism, which says all of them are correct. And even if I’m wrong, why does it matter?

After all, what do the other religions promise? They promise me that if I do certain things, if I lead my life in a certain way, I might find my way to some kind of heaven. The paths are slightly different, and the destination often is slightly different, but you can pretty much boil down the major world religions to that. What they don’t promise is assurance. There are a lot of mights in it. And none of them promise anything bad will happen to me if I don’t believe them, especially if I lead a good life anyway. I may cease to exist, just as anyone else who doesn’t quite do a good enough job would. Or maybe I won’t get reincarnated in the most desirable way. But if that happens, I get another chance.

Then there’s the great teacher Jesus–just about everyone regards Him as a great teacher–who taught something kinda sorta similar. He taught how to lead your life. But Jesus said something else. He said he was the fulfilment of Judaism, that He was the way to heaven. Period. There was no other way. Him or damnation.

I find it interesting that non-Christians regard Jesus as a great teacher today. If you believe one of the other messiahs, what Jesus said is pure heresy. You might find it interesting that members of Jesus’ own family thought he was a madman. His own family! He was either what He said He was, or a madman. The others may not be incompatible with Him, but He is certainly incompatible with them.

But there’s more to Jesus’ message than just that. The alternatives are works-based. Jesus said just one thing: believe. Everything else is a byproduct of taking Jesus for what He said He was and is. Don’t sweat the other stuff. It just happens, and it’s better that way than if we’d done it on our own. And Jesus said one other thing. He promised assurance. With Him, you know exactly where you’re going.

Christianity really is very simple. You can boil it down to a really simple question. Well, two, I guess. God asks, “Why should I have anything to do with you?” Then after you die, God asks, “Why should I let you in here?” The answer to both questions is the same thing. I can put it articulately, but really a one-word answer will suffice. And it has absolutely nothing to do with me.

So if I’m gonna hedge my bets, that’s where I’m gonna hedge them. I was afraid at first what I’d have to give up, but the truth was I didn’t have to give up anything. Given a little time, I just wanted to give those things up.

I realized just after college that I wouldn’t be able to buy happiness, and that the capitalism I spent four years writing about wouldn’t accomplish much. I went looking for something else. I went looking for what every unmarried 22-year-old male looks for. I thought I’d found the key to happiness when I found her. Along the way I picked Christianity back up too. When I hadn’t proven sufficiently the sincerity of my faith, she took a hike. I was crushed, but I still had something. If you subscribe to the belief that it takes 9 positives to counteract a negative, my ratio’s a bit lower than that. The difference is I always have the ace in my hand. So the ratio of disappointments to triumphs really is irrelevant, because I’ve got the triumph that trumps all disappointments.

So I guess what I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is I agree with Frank. Tell materialism to take a hike, go make the world a better place.

Just don’t try to do it on your own, and don’t rely solely on human help.

Mailbag:

Misc things; The trade; Depression

12/22/2000

AMD, part II. Intel will have its work cut out for it when Micron releases its Mamba chipset for the Athlon and Duron. Micron noticed a great waste of space in its Samurai chipset, so they decided to turn the wasted silicon into 8 MB of high-speed, low-latency L3 cache. Intel wouldn’t license the P6 bus to Micron, so Micron went to AMD, who of course welcomed them with open arms.

The Mamba is expected to perform 15% faster than the AMD 760. Unfortunately, I know nothing about expected release dates.

And what of AMD’s great hope for the Duron, the VIA KM133? Horrendous 2D performance holds it back. While it has the memory bandwidth of the earlier KT133 and KX133 and offers decent 3D performance, its 2D performance seriously lags behind the SiS 730–and SiS video isn’t exactly renowned for performance. In other words, the reason the Savage series flopped as a standalone card remains. Intel’s integrated chipsets put up better numbers overall, so if AMD’s going to beat Intel in this space, it’s going to have to be on price.

The new Musicmatch Jukebox. I normally don’t pay any attention to this app, but I caught a review of it and it includes a compelling new feature. It’s optional, and most privacy activists will hate it, but that’s why you can turn it off. For me, it’s the draw.

Tell it your favorite artist, and it streams stuff that other people who like the same thing like. I punch in Aimee Mann (who else?) and it responds by playing a set of Aimee Mann, Moby, Abra Moore, and Lou Reed. Nice. The next set was David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Blur. And none of the tracks was the artist’s best-known song.

For me, the whole point of radio is to discover new stuff. I love my music (I’ve got a modest-sized collection of nearly 200 CDs), but radio has become so repetitive and it’s really hard for a quality artist like Aimee Mann to get any radio play. And when she does get play, it’s “Voices Carry” (her smash 1985 hit with her band, ‘Til Tuesday), or if a station is especially progressive, her Oscar-nominated “Save Me.” About once a year, you might hear one of her minor hits like “I Should Have Known” or “That’s Just What You Are” or “Red Vines.” The problem is, she doesn’t have the promotional engine behind her to give radio stations much of anything in return for playing her stuff (short of the occasional concert ticket, but she doesn’t tour much). So we get the same ‘N Sync and The Backstreet Boys and Celine Dion and Elton John songs over and over and over. Nothing new about that.

Sometimes a good station does come around, but when you hear a new song, good luck finding out anything about it because the DJ usually doesn’t say (except for the songs everyone already knows). When a song is playing, MusicMatch optionally brings up a browser window with album info, a review, a listing of the most popular tracks off the album. And in some cases, you can download a free track off the album. And–unlike radio–if you don’t like a track, you can skip it!

You can also choose from a list of 18 preset stations, and you can tell it to mix selections from the stations. So if you yearn for the days when AOR stations mixed in a dash of alternative music, you can approximate it by mixing Classic Rock, Hard Rock, and Adult Alternative (since that’s what they now call most of the stuff that was considered alternative in 1992).

The other nice thing is it’ll favor the artists whose MP3s you rip using the program in the 18 preset stations. So presumably if I rip a lot of Badfinger and Cars (I still have trouble calling The Cars classic rock) tunes, if I click on the Classic Rock station I’ll hear something other than a constant barrage of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Rush (which, as far as I can tell, is all that anyone listened to in the ’70s). Sounds good to me.

This, I think, is a killer application for the Internet. Musicmatch is at www.musicmatch.com.

Spam. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. At least the phrase “boost the reliability of ordinary Windows 3.x…to nearly the level of Windows NT or 2000” gave me a chuckle.

Ignore these chumps.

Dear Windows User,

Now you can boost the reliability of ordinary Windows 3.x, 95 and 98 to nearly the level of Windows NT or 2000, Microsoft’s professional and industrial version of Windows.

The new WinFix 4.3 is a very effective way to improve the reliability of Windows, because it makes Windows fault-tolerant and self-repairing. And WinFix is very safe, because it operates completely independent of Windows.

http://www.backtoday.com/comph to find out more about WinFix, the safest, most effective way to keep you working, by keeping your PC working non-stop.

Arlen Dixon, CEO
Westwood Software Marketing

This announcement is being sent to PC users who asked to be kept informed about new developments in Windows(tm) technology. To be removed from our mailing list, go to the Email-us page. OR To be removed mailto:remove@backtoday.com?Subject=REMOVE

10/31/2000

I know there’s a word for this
I know ’cause we’ve all at some time said it
like when we were little kids
we’d fight each other ’til someone would give in
and you’d make him tell you ‘uncle’
  –Aimee Mann, “I Know There’s a Word” (Whatever, 1993)

Those lyrics came to mind the instant I read this.  My talkback is #22. There’s little point in reproducing any of it here.

I had a run-in with Mr. Darren (I recognize his style) the summer before last. Typical story Jerry tells. Jerry talks about Apple attack dogs who leap on anyone who dares write anything negative about Apple. Same principle here. Eventually you reach the point where you get sick of it and therefore don’t write anything at all about the subject to avoid the attack dogs.

The ignorance these people display about how computer journalism and the computer industry itself operate is unbelievable. Is it so unusual to learn something about a subject before opening your mouth about it?

This kind of crap makes me glad that now I’m not writing a book about Linux and Windows that might actually suggest that some people might have reason to run Windows. Oh, hell. I’ll go ahead and say it. Attention zealots: You know what software your beloved O’Reilly uses to write and edit its manuscripts? Microsoft Word!

On to a more pleasant subject. Good thing there’s a whole lot more to life than just computers. A friend called me up and told me to make sure I picked up the November issue of Vanity Fair because of a brief Aimee Mann/Michael Penn feature in it, plus Elvis Costello’s Top 500 recommended CDs. Good stuff. The issue kept me distracted from my article (due ASAP) for the better part of an hour.

Elvis’ best line: “As for the hit records of today, maybe some of them will sound just fantastic in 20 years’ time. It’s your life. So! No Marilyn, Korn, Puffy, Eddie Money–sorry, Kid Rock–Limp Bizkit, Ricky, Britney, Backstreet Boys, etc., etc.”

Here here!

Mail later. Probably. Assuming I bother.

It’s later. In March of 1999, Jerry was having some or another Linux problem, he got mail-bombed, and I sent him a letter, addressing him but also the Linux zealotry, asking, “What do you want? Do you want to be a punk computer like the Amiga, that no one uses? Repeat after me: Criticism of Linux is not a personal attack on me.” Jerry printed it, the result was a lot of mail.

One of them was this letter, to which I started writing a response but never got around to finishing because I couldn’t figure out what he wanted from me. This is, I’m pretty certain, the same “Darren” who wrote the “Jerry Pournelle finally admits he’s a Microsoft shill” headline at Linuxtoday.

I believe that what he and others like him are calling for is not journalism, nor is it editorial (which is where you call it like you see it–technically, that’s what Jerry Pournelle does. He’s a columnist, not a journalist) but rather, sheer advocacy.

I present it here. Opinions welcome–the mail link’s to the left, and you can leave comments by clicking on the skull icon at the end of the message (that’s what that’s for–I just haven’t gotten around to changing it).

From: Darren [SMTP:PCTech1018@netscape.net]Sent: Thursday, March 11, 1999 11:09 AM
Subject: RE: Your letter on Chaos Manor

Dave,

You asked the question “What do Linux Users want?”.

We want ACCURATE reporting.  This does not mean that we do not accept negative commentary.  This means that we are sick and tired of people with obvious Microsoft slants propagating unsubstantiated FUD while claiming journalistic objectivity.

Jerry Pournelle has a long history of being pro-microsoft.  His negative comments about Linux have a history of being based in ignorance. When he first started working with Linux and complaining about the lack of usability of Linux, he hadn’t even gotten a Linux system up and running. Why does he want Linux to continue to exist? So that Microsoft will continue to improve and dominate. These are demonstrable facts.

Journalists have continually spread anti-Linux FUD from Microsoft most often without any basis in fact. Until recently, the “difficult to use” argument was the predominant position. KDE, FVWM and other “easy-to-use” interfaces have existed for YEARS. This FUD has only recently been dying off after Microsoft’s demonstration of Caldera in court. There is the “lack of support” FUD argument. This FUD is finally dying off now that IBM, HP, Compaq, et al, have joined in the Linux “support” bandwagon. What is really ironic is that they are simply repackaging and using the same support mechanisms that have existed since the introduction of Linux 1.0 in 1994. Now we have a concentration of the “lack of applications” FUD. As more people become aware of HOW to use the sites such as www.linuxapps.com and www.metalab.unc.edu, this argument will also become apparent for the FUD that it is.

What do Linux users want? We want techno-journalists who do more than simply repeat the latest FUD out of Redmond.  They claim to have a certain level of expertise in the technical arena, but are most often only successful at demonstrating their own ignorance.

You obviously feel that we have been out of line in our treatment of certain journalists.  Would you care to give me an example of negative Linux reporting that was accurate from Jesse Berst, Jerry Pournelle or Ben Elgin? How about you give me any example at all from ANY journalist?

I am confident that I will be able to take any example you give me and show you how it is slanted, inaccurate, and not worthy of being published by professional journalists.

I do not intend this to be a flame mail, I just want to do my part to kill the bad journalism.

Regards,
Darren

I also have some (very lengthy) mail from someone who I believe is taking a much more constructive approach, or at least whose criticisms are much more valid. That should appear soon.

MP3s won’t kill the music industry

Courtney Love is right… I’m the last to bring this up, but last month Love said what every other musician is thinking. Every other sane one at least. Wanna know why Aimee Mann started her own label? Well, let’s see. She releases a record, on a major, the world yawns. It happened four times straight, from 1986 to 1996. The labels aren’t willing to play the payola game for her. She releases a record on her own label, and look at that… She’s #33 on Amazon.com. And for the first time since she first picked up a bass guitar 20 years ago and started a band, she’s making money making music.
It’s only a matter of time before the public at large tires of payola radio and the mega-trust record industry. I’m not saying they’ll implode, but they’ll be selling Hanson and Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears records (or more likely, their successors) while the more enduring artists find other means to get their work into the hands of the public. It’s good to see Love isn’t afraid of the MP3 format.

I’ve always thought, if porn stars can make money by putting up web sites peddling all the dirty pictures you can download for 10 bucks a month, why can’t rock stars make money by offering an all-you-can-download buffet of music files for a similar price? Most artists can’t keep up a song-a-month rate, true, but you don’t have to. Peddle demos. Record all of your concerts and release those tracks. Broadcast your live shows over the ‘Net. Hawk t-shirts at a discount. Set up a Shoutcast stream of your catalog, circumventing radio entirely (I seem to recall The Cure set up a pirate radio station in Britain and called it CURE-FM for this purpose–but Shoutcast, unlike pirate radio, is legal). It gives people a chance to hear your stuff before whipping out the credit card, then if they like it, they can subscribe to the site or buy a CD or eight. (I find it humorous that it’s Nullsoft, a subsidiary of AOL, that could contribute to the undoing of the music industry, of which future AOL subsidiary Time Warner is a major, major player).

True fans eat up rarities and live cuts and gladly pay for it. Yes, I’ve forked over $30 for really cruddy-sounding Joy Division live albums. I’ve also bought all their commercially available cruddy-sounding live albums. Along with the albums that sound like they were recorded in the men’s room. And the remastered boxed set that includes the albums and singles and b-sides and demos, which sounds like it was recorded in a regular studio. Everything but the out-of-print John Peel session (I’m still kicking myself for not buying that when I saw it back in 1995–I haven’t seen it since). I’m what you’d call a fanatic. But I’m not the only Joy Division fanatic out there. And Joy Division isn’t the only band with large numbers of crazy fans like me.

Joy Division milked two albums and two singles and three years of existance for a remarkable amount. You’ve probably never heard of them, but the three surviving members and the lead singer’s widow don’t care, because they’re making a lot more money than any other one-hit wonder from 1980 is. Their medium was vinyl, and later, CD. But they have a following because they made themselves available. With MP3, modern bands can make themselves available for a lot less than Joy Division paid to do it, and they can cut out most of the middlemen.

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